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LOW VISION – The wave of the future

Severe vision impairment, often referred to as low vision, is about to become a worldwide epidemic. Visual impaired persons are defined as having a vision loss which interferes with everyday living tasks, e.g., reading a newspaper, looking at photographs or recognize faces and for which there is no conventional surgical or therapeutic treatment. Age related macular degeneration accounts nearly for half of all cases, followed by cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, optic nerve disease and injury to the eye.

Low Vision has long been a neglected sub-specialty-socially relevant, but commercially suspect – and has been referred to as “the best kept secret in optical” by a few practitioners. But all that has changed as eye care professionals have begun to recognize the inevitability of the wave of new low vision patients that will be seen all over the world.

Data available shows that the number of visually impaired persons is increasing day by day and it is going to be triple by 2028. When we see that less than 50% at the most receive any low vision rehabilitation services, then the magnitude of both the challenge and opportunity is obvious. As a result, low vision is finally becoming an important and recognized part of health care.

Low vision can effect everybody – rich and poor, old and young, all races and ethnic backgrounds equally. Still it is more commonly associated with the older population of our society, and there is no cure on the horizon. Low vision specialist, technology and training represent a process of rehabilitation that will continue to be the clinical modality of choice for the future. Thus low vision services are geared to help patients to maximize the use of residual vision, not helping to see better in general. It only means helping the patient function better and independently in everyday life. There is no “quick fix” or “single pair of glass” that will do it for all. Instead depending on the severity of the vision loss, a typical low vision patient may need 2 or 3 different aids to help his various tasks.

Thanks to a number of organizations, the general population is becoming more aware of the availability of low vision rehabilitation services. In the U.S.A. , for example, many associations offer patients education, video to practitioners, support groups and individuals that is supported by national referral database.

The wave is coming. The number of service practitioners is rapidly expanding with the help of institutions that are dedicated to helping eye care professionals get started in low vision through training, provision of demonstration equipments and ongoing support.

Low vision rehabilitation offers the practitioners a feel good niche and the patient a real choice to regain visual independence.